WHEELING, WV (WOWK) – The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston released for the first time in its history a complete financial audit – and it shows the Diocese is facing several difficult financial decisions.
The 2019 audit was ordered by Archbishop Wiliam E. Lori in the wake of a financial scandal which resulted, in part, in the dismissal of former Bishop Michael J. Bransfield. Lori is also serving as the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese and ordered the external audit of the Diocese’s revenue and expenses.
That audit was conducted by Clifton Larsen Allen, LLP, a national firm with extensive experience auditing Catholic Dioceses and was presented to the Diocesan Finance Council and College of Priest Consultors on February 13, 2020.
The audit state the Diocese’s chief expenditure of supporting its parishes and Catholic Schools in West Virginia is greater than its income from oil and gas sales and an investment portfolio.
In a letter accompanying the release of the audit the Bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston diocese, Mark E. Brennan writes “…you will note the scope of the support given by the Diocese to parishes and schools, to health and property insurance programs, to the operation of our three pastoral centers, to our vocations program, to Catholic Charities West Virginia and Wheeling University, and to outreach efforts in communications and evangelization.”
But Brennan then states “(a)s laudable as that support is, it results in the Diocese running deficits each year as expenditures surpass ordinary income by several millions of dollars. The deficits are made up by selling off investments, which, if this pattern continues unchecked, will eventually eliminate any benefit to future Werst Virginia Catholics from the legacy which the mineral rights have provided.”
Brennan also noted the expenses still owing the investigation into Bransfield’s “…behavior and various legal issues facing the Diocese during the past fiscal year.”
“As we move past a tragic episode in the life of our Diocese,” Brennan concludes, “we intend to conduct the affairs of our Church responsibly with the transparency that lay faithful, clergy and religious have a right to expect.”